• Kathleen Irene Paterka

Brush Your Teeth ( * and other things I learned on the way to growing up)



Life is a set of learning curves. How you navigate the bumps in the road can save a ton of bruises to your body and psyche. Here (in no particular order) are some lessons I’ve learned along the way.


NOTE: these are things that worked for me. Maybe you’ll find them helpful. Maybe not. Each of us is on our own journey. Feel free to take what you like and leave the rest... except when it comes to brushing your teeth. Everyone should do that.



1. A curling iron works best if, after plugging it in, you remember to turn it on.


2. Just because you’re related doesn’t necessarily mean your family members have loving intentions. Some, in fact, delight in being downright cruel. “You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends.” The best part of this old adage? Your friends often become the family of your heart.


3. Your mother and your dentist were right. It’s important to brush your teeth. 3x per day is best, but 2x per day works, too. And don’t forget to floss. Do you really want to show up all smiles in a random picture posted without your permission (probably by one of those malicious family member who’s secretly laughing about that stray bit of Brussel Sprouts stuck between your teeth).


4. Churches, like other institutions, usually have an underlying agenda. This can, and often does, include political posturing, with large sums of money exchanging hands. When religious leaders choose to stand at the pulpit and warn voters their souls are at peril by choosing to vote opposite the church’s political position, feel free to ignore them.


5. Despite what your dentist says, YES, it is possible to floss a gold crown out of your mouth.


6. When it comes to shoes, forget the calendar. Life is too short to be governed by silly outdated rules dreamed up by self-proclaimed fashion gurus. Remember: gurus do not know everything, and they also do not live in your closet or your house. You do. If you like the shoes, wear them. Even after Labor Day.


7. White hair quickly makes a woman invisible. “Letting your hair go” and embracing your natural color can be liberating. Unfortunately, not everyone will think so. Some will raise their voices in direct opposition. Surprisingly enough, the loudest voices often come from other women even older than you who choose to continue coloring their hair while questioning your decision to let yours go. Feel free to ignore these women and their comments. It’s your hair. Do what you want.


8. Dishes are meant to be used and enjoyed. That precious antique platter handed down generation to generation was never meant to sit on a shelf collecting dust. Put it to use. If it breaks, close your eyes, and say a little prayer for whoever owned it first. Then throw the pieces in the trash and buy yourself something new in a pattern you love.


9. Just because the ophthalmologist pronounces the cataracts in your eyes to be “Blue Cross Ready” doesn’t mean you should be quick to sign up for replacement surgery. Take a deep breath. Do your research. Talk to your friends (especially the ones who’ve already had whatever surgery it is you’re contemplating). Listen to what they have to say, and then (and only then) make an informed decision. The ophthalmologists and orthopedic surgeons will continue to tout the miraculous benefits of modern-day technology, but never forget that they’re in the business of performing surgeries. It’s how they make their money. Don’t allow anyone to pressure you into making a decision which makes you uncomfortable. Your original body parts can never truly be replaced.


10. Mind your own business. Everyone has their own agenda… including you. This is especially relevant when it comes to your adult children. Best rule of advice? Keep your mouth shut. They do not want to hear your opinion. The only thing they need to hear from you is how much you love them. Hint: You cannot say this enough. Say it loud and say it often.


11. Limit your time on-line. The internet is the Mother Lode of TMI, with one thing invariably leading to another. Why go there? Most on-line articles only serve as click bait to put money in someone else’s pocket. Do you really need to waste your time reading useless info that has little if any relevance in your life?


12. Alcohol will tell you lies. It will do its best to convince you that you are beautiful, brilliant, witty, clever, and that everyone loves you. It will try and persuade you that if one drink makes you feel this good, then certainly another drink or two or three (why not the whole bottle!?!) will be so much better… until the next morning arrives. Yes, it invariably arrives. You stumble to the bathroom mirror, throbbing head, swirling stomach, and raise bleary eyes to see your sad, ugly face as you stare down the bitter truth. One drink is too many, and a thousand is never enough. You will never win the battle, so you might as well surrender while you’re still alive.


13. Treasure your girlfriends. Surround yourself with their goodness and keep them close. Be sure to make time for them. Your spouse and children may be dear to you, but life happens fast. Children grow up and move away, and women statistically outlive their husbands. Your girlfriends will be a source of strength, hope, comfort, and support, especially as all of you age. Remember to let them know how much you love them, and how grateful you are for their presence in your life.


14. Renew your library card. If you do not have a library card, get yourself to the library and sign up today. Your library card will be the most important credit card you will ever own. It’s your passport to books, magazines, newspapers, movies, and other community resources. Best of all, it’s free.


15. COVID changed everything, including the choices we make as to how to live our lives, and how we interact with others. But manners have not gone out of style. There’s no reason to be rude or unkind, no matter another person’s politics or religion, or general thoughts on life. We’re all in this together, and that’s the only way we’ll get through it. Together.


I suppose, in the end, it basically boils down to just trying to do my best. That’s all I can ask of myself: to do my best with what I have on any given day. Patience, tolerance, and kindness go a long way in mending relationships and fostering peace and goodwill towards men.


Well, except for that nasty mean-spirited relative. You know who I mean: the one who posted that picture of you on social media. Feel free to ignore them. Better yet, why not just block them and be done with it.

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